Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Better Bloodrayne

I don't really know all that much about BloodRayne. What I know, other than two terrible movies, and one fantastic fan film starring Vera Vanguard, a review of which can be found here.

Recently I downloaded BloodRayne: Betrayal. I was thinking it would be cool. After all, what's not cool about a hot chick killing Nazis and vampires, really, it sounds like the perfect game. The problem is, this game is really nothing like that at all. It's not even as cool as previous BloodRayne games I've learned. Older versions of the game were actually similar to Tomb Raider in style, this one is a sidescroller (see, I'm learning the lingo), like Rolling Thunder or Bionic Commando. To me, the novice, this seems like a step backward in evolution. I definitely prefer Lara Croft to this weak 2D anime.

Like many games, I was unable to get very far. The game keeps it simple, half-human half-vampire BloodRayne is recruited by good vampires to fight bad vampires, but apparently not simple enough for me. This game would have been marked for deletion along with the others among The Rejected, had Crystal and Jeff not taken a liking to it.

Jeff, in his usual manner, got on the game and started kicking its ass. He was cruising across this side scroll whupping vampire butt left and right, though mostly right. The vampires good and bad were blowing up like Pookas and Fygars in Dig Dug. Have I mentioned how awesome Jeff is? Well, actually he might not be that great of a gamer, but he can sure make me look bad, not a hard feat.

As far as BloodRayne goes, I think I'm going to stick with Vera Vanguard. Like Jeff, she's much cooler than this game.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Rejected

Once learning that I could download game demos from the PlayStation Store, I have been a downloadin' maniac. And once I figured out that if I didn't like them, I could delete them… I've downloaded even more and more. This blog entry is about some of the games that didn't make the cut for me, and why.

Heavy Rain ~ I remember a few years back when this game initially came out. It was a big, big deal. It was called "an interactive drama psychological thriller video game." Besides being a mouthful of adjectives and noun, it was also supposed to have phenomenal special effects. In the one sequence I was able to see, and not get past, yes, the effects were pretty cool, but again, as I said, I was pretty much just stuck in this one alley and couldn't go anywhere else. With my low patience tolerance, I deleted this one fairly quickly.

Marvel Pinball ~ While I am a big Marvel Comics fan, I am not much of a pinball player, especially not in a video game where you really can't move the machine or 'finesse' the ball where you want it to go. The Bride however is a big pinballer, both real and video. I figured this would be a good game for us both to play. Sadly, after many attempts, I have yet to make this one download. There is always a problem. Oh well.

Rocketmen: Axis of Evil ~ Along with Ghostbusters and the similarly titled Rocketbirds, this game is just too damned loud. Every time I passed by it while looking for another game, the volume of it would blast so loud for just the second the cursor paused on it - I eventually just deleted to make the noise stop. I still have no idea if it's any good or not. It certainly looked intriguing in a Dragon's Lair anime way.

Lemmings ~ I love Lemmings, and on the PC version of this game I rocked it, and enjoyed it immensely. I loved Lemmings and as I said I was pretty good - no such luck with the PS3 version. It reminded me a bit of the PS3 Elevator Action (which I'm sure I'll talk about here sooner or later), as it resembles the original game but has different dynamics and controls. I couldn't do it. So because I was ashamed of not being good at a game I used to be good at - I deleted Lemmings.

Seeing how inept I am at this gaming stuff, and how enthusiastic I am at downloading free demos, I'm sure this list will only grow. Time will tell.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas in the DC Universe Online

When last we left The Red Sun, in the DC Universe Online game, he had escaped from Brainiac's ship and was wandering around the Metropolis (at least I think it's Metropolis) police station trying not to tick off other online players whose characters, flagging their names behind them, whizzed to and fro. Yeah, I was lost again. Basically I was at the "Now what?" point.

Eventually after wandering in circles for awhile, and trying to talk to characters who were not player-controlled, I learned that Super-Gorilla Grodd was attacking again, this time with a plan to turn humans into apes. Again? But that trick never works. Despite all that, I learned how to fly, and use the map, and got myself to the big battle.

Battle is kind of a misleading. Massacre is more like it. They beat me down, bad. Luckily Jeff came over and gave me a boost with the game. He played his way through quite a few gorilla soldiers, and got us (I know, but I'll get to play after he's done) to the next level. Coolness, thank you, Jeff.

In the midst of battle throughout Metropolis (yep, it's definitely Metropolis), we kept seeing Christmas trees, which I thought at first were a nice holiday decoration. I'm guessing that's what the massive update was before we started playing. It could have been that or the two new (buyable) updates for speedsters and Green Lanterns, of which there were many, far too many actually. I guess everyone abandons their old characters when new powers become available.

We soon learned that the update was probably a special Christmas present for DCUO players - a new adventure called "Season's Greedings" featuring Orange Lantern Larfleeze who has come to Earth to strike back at Santa for leaving him empty-handed this year. The new quest involves collecting stolen gifts and fighting Larfleeze's orange constructs without being trapped in snowglobes or turned into orange energy snowmen.

What a pleasant surprise! It sure beats being clobbered by big monkeys any day. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Where's the Bacon?

The Baconing. This game was another free download from the PlayStation Store that went unplayed for a while. Well, I did try to play it, but without reading the instructions, good controller skills, or that wonderful virtue, gaming experience - I couldn't make heads nor tails of it.

Luckily, the Dark Crystal gave it a try on a recent visit, giving me some idea of what was what in the world of The Baconing. In this sequel to two previous games (DeathSpank and DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue), you play as DeathSpank, an arrogant good guy (voiced by game and animation veteran Michael Dobson) who has unwittingly created an evil duplicate of himself, the AntiSpank, and must stop him to win the game.

The game has unique animation and plays similarly to a funny animal version of Diablo or Gauntlet with a Monty Pythonic sense of humor. That sense of humor is what makes the game for me - as a player or as a viewer. That last part is important as it negates the horror of the turn wait. That's a good thing.

And although I did enjoy this, I do have one question - where's the bacon?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pain and Addiction

You might ask where I've been. It has been some time since I've written this blog. Well, November had something to do with it. I'm a writer, and November is NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. You can read about it here, but that took up quite a bit of my extra time. I was also sick, and had a twisted ankle in there as well. I could easily make those excuses, but it wouldn't be entirely true. The truth is I've found a PS3 game I really like. It's called Pain.

I have the Dark Crystal to thank for this new addiction. Late one night she sent me this quick text: Go to the PlayStation Network and find the game called Pain. I'll give you ten bucks for the download. You will love it! I did eventually, at first I was skeptical, and I didn't quite trust the PlayStation Network after that wonderful hacking scandal. Once I had the game, and started playing I was sooo hooked.

Pain is kind of like Angry Birds, only instead of birds, you're flinging people from a slingshot into at first a cityscape and then other worlds trying to break stuff for points. Besides the obvious buildings, cars, billboards, signs and the like, there are also explosives, tunnels, even mimes and monkeys as obstacles. The whole time your people are screaming in agony, making snarky remarks and getting tossed about like crazed ragdolls.

Besides different backgrounds to be flung into, there are also a variety of people who can be flung. You can be a rapper, a gamer girl, a cheerleader, a wrestler, a cowboy or girl, a ninja, a pirate, a cat, an old lady, even characters from other games, or 'celebrities' like Santa, Flava Flav, Elvira, George Takai, Elvis, Andy Dick, or David Hasselhoff. Yeah, even The Hoff.

Thank you, Crystal, for hipping me to this terrific game. And just for the record, I've never felt the need to collect that ten bucks, especially not for the hours and hours of fun I've gotten from this game.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Smash 'em Crash 'em Racing

When I was a kid, way back in the Dark Ages known as the 1970s, these cars called SSP Racers were all the rage. These wonderful toys with the one big wheel and the T-stick to rev them up and race across the concrete or the floor filled many days and nights of my childhood. There were dozens of models to collect and then they came out with the next evolution - the SSP Smash-Up Derby. Not only could you race them, now you could run these cars at each other and parts would fly off, just like in the demolition derby.

When I first started college, in that null zone between the Atari 2600 and the first Nintendo system, I had a first date with a girl who invited me babysitting. The home where she was babysitting had an Atari system, so I borrowed some games to play while we, ahem, babysat. Before we moved on to other activities, we played several racing games on the Atari like Night Driver, Pole Position, Enduro and Spy Hunter (I think, it might have been too early for that last one), but because we had other things on our minds, we played them badly, and crashed into stuff constantly. In hindsight it was kind of fun. The crashing part, I meant.

Now among the demo downloads from the PlayStation Store I have found a game that kinda puts together those two memories into a fun beach atmosphere. It's called Smash Cars, and I like it a lot, and even my feeble gamer novice mind can grasp how it works.

You're controlling a little remote control sand buggy and racing around a preset course on the beach. Oh sure, it's a race, and you're supposed to win and get the best time, but I had the best time by crashing into stuff. You can drive through boxes, drive off the pier, and the most fun, crash into the people in the beach. I absolutely love hitting the jump button as I approach this one guy, and nailing him right in the beanbag if you know what I mean.

I love this game. A lot. When I was looking for mindless destruction games, I should have been looking for this one, not The Incredible Hulk or Grand Theft Auto. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Malibu Grand Prix and the Mystery of Dig Dug

One of the games I have downloaded from the PlayStation Store has been Namco Museum Essentials. Yeah, they're old arcade games. I figured they would be way more my speed. One of the games included was Dig Dug.

I used to play Dig Dug all the time, probably for the first time at Maibu Grand Prix in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. The big draw was the miniature Indy car raceway in the back, but inside, it was a huge arcade, back in the day when videogames were played in such places. Now it's just at home on the computer or video console. Us old people did it differently.
Malibu's been gone for a long time now. They tore it all down and there's now a medical complex there. Before that, it was closed and abandoned for years. Rumor has it that when they went to demolish it, a body was found on the grounds. Weird. There are still some Mailbu complexes open, in California and Texas, but for the most part, the arcade is a dead thing in our time.

I discovered Malibu in high school. A friend's mother used to work in the offices nearby and he would pick her up after work every day, and take his brothers and his friends with to play at Malibu while we waited 'til the working whistle blew as they say. Malibu was where I first played a lot of great games, stuff like Star Castle, which I used to be able to play for hours on only a quarter - that was my game, as well as Centipede (though I preferred Millipede), Warlords, Popeye, Galaxian, Qix (another favorite I was very good at), Astro Fighter, Time Pilot, Pac-Man, Zaxxon, and another old favorite, Sinistar - and of course, Dig Dug. Hmmm... I guess I'm really dating myself with that list, huh?

Anyway, as I was playing Dig Dug, and getting my ol' skillz back after navigating the PS3 controller, I started to wonder about the game. I mean, what the hell is it, really? It's a guy named Dig Dug, who dresses like an astronaut and digs through the ground... and when he encounters weird creatures and dragons he shoots a hose at them, and inflates them until they explode. That sound about right? Wow. You can not tell me there were not drugs involved in the creation of this game.

After a bit of research (always a dangerous thing to do when you don't know what you'll find), I discovered Dig Dug's real name was Hori Taizo, and he was the father of the guy in the Mr. Driller videogame (never heard of it) and the ex-husband of the heroine from Baraduke (that one either). The creatures are Pookas and Fygars respectively. Collectively they represent a weird incestuous hierarchy in Japanese videogaming. They are everywhere, in dozens of games.

I still got no explanation of what the game actually means. Sometimes a little knowledge, or a lack thereof, is a bad thing. At least it's fun, and at least I can play it without embarrassing myself...

Monday, October 17, 2011

…And Breaking the Hero

Okay, last time, I had finally succeeded in creating a character to play in DC Universe Online, called "theredsun" AKA The Red Sun, a Mon-El clone with fire powers. I was all set to start playing in the DC Universe, woo hoo! And then the game started.

I don't know what I did wrong, or if I did do something wrong, but I started out on Brainiac's spaceship. I had to get out before I could actually start playing. The narrative, the computer, or whatever, kept telling me I only had to take out a couple guards and I could go. But no, that never worked out. There kept being 'just two more guards' and then I had to find the exit. It never seemed to end.

I must have been flying or walking around this stupid ship for hours, when Jeff finally showed up, figured stuff out in a few minutes and finally got The Red Sun off the ship. Damn gaming veteran. I'm jealous and frustrated, yes, but also thankful. I think I might've died on the ship if he hadn't come along, and lord knows what that would've meant, maybe starting the character creation process over again.

Off the ship, I found myself in a city, and at a police headquarters, which seemed more like the place I should've started. The weird part, and Jeff informed me this was how online games worked, was seeing other costumed folk wandering aimlessly around. All of them had their names floating above them. This I thought was funny, and I wondered what would happen if I just followed one of them around constantly.

By this time however, we had other non-videogames things to do and had to leave it go. So I guess I just missed out on getting a cyber-punch in the nose. Good place to stop though, and hopefully the game saved.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Making the Hero

I was so anxious to get started playing DC Universe Online that I jumped right in without a parachute or even knowing how to swim. I was immediately confronted with an intimidating barrage of additional downloads and Apple style contract agreements just to get on with it. It did much to diminish my enthusiasm. Again, I'm learning that patience is a major factor in playing these newer videogames.

I was finally able to play, no, that's not the right word… I was finally able to actually do something some time the next day. After a fantastic cinematic about the framing sequence of the story of the game, I would be able to start making my character. I have to tell you though, that this intro -which I had seen before, but on YouTube - is absolutely stunning on the high definition big screen. I'm happy to watch it multiple times and did.

Here's the gist: Brainiac is secretly absorbing the powers of Earth's metahumans while also inciting them to go to war with each other. In the final climatic battle that we see, Luthor and the other major villains destroy what is left of the Justice League. When no one is left standing except for Luthor, Brainiac plays his hand, and invades the Earth. No is left to stop him. Luthor steals Brainiac's power-absorbing devices and travels back in time to warn the Justice League. On his way, he releases the devices which shower the earth with excess powers, creating new superhumans (the players), whom the heroes, and villains, must train to eventually stop Brainiac. Got it?

So to start, you are a new hero, inspired by any of several metahuman characters in the DC Universe, and you go on training missions to learn your craft and prepare to fight Brainiac. In the meantime, you get to interact with established heroes and villains and explore the elaborate fantasy world that is the DC Universe.

Now I had been told that there was a detailed character creation system, but that's not so true. My initial thought was to create an existing but obscure DC character that wouldn't already be in the game. My fantasies included the Golden Age Mr. Terrific, Congo Bill, and from the Legion's time, Questar. Wasn't happening.

There's a limited number of heroes who can 'inspire' your character, and your powers and costume color schemes kind of match up to that hero (or villain), or at least that's the way it appears to me. If that's not the case, please let me know, because as I've pointed out on multiple occasions, I am handicapped when it comes to videogames. I ended up finally with a character inspired by Superman, who looks like Mon-El, has fire powers, and called The Red Sun, spelled in the game "theredsun" because someone, or several someones probably already thought of it. Ah, the perils of online gaming - everyone's doing it.

Next, The Red Sun actually gets to adventure in the DC Universe...

Monday, October 10, 2011

Ultimate Alliance 2 by Two

The last time I tried to play either one of the two Marvel Ultimate Alliance games I became frustrated quickly and gave up on them. This time, I did it the right way. I brought help.

Jeff was hanging out and staying over the weekend, so we were talking comics and gaming as per usual, and the conversation turned to the PS3. After hear about the free subscription thing in October for DC Universe Online, I had purchased it and was hoping Jeff -in his formidable gaming experience- could help me set it up. It took forever to install, and then update, and then update again. And I think I signed away my home in the terms agreements.

Anyway, I gave up on it after a while, I guess I just don't have the patience for videogames. As we were in the mood though, we turned to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2. The second one was chosen over the first version as there were more characters to choose from, or at least that's what the voice of experience said.

Jeff knew the game backwards and forwards. He had apparently beaten it while we were on vacation a month or two back, both Ultimate Alliances, that is, yeah, both. But, on the positive side, having someone familiar with the game, who knows what's coming, knows all the tricks - and most of all, knows how the controller works, is a good thing for an extreme novice like me. We moved pretty quickly through quite a few levels, and I actually got to see some of the story unfold, which made me like the game even more.

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 is based in part, at least early on, on writer Brian Michael Bendis' Secret War mini-series from Marvel Comics. These events in the comics led indirectly to Civil War, and in this game they do as well. There's enough story presented in the game to get the point, but much like a Stephen King movie, having read the book helps a lot in fleshing out what's really going on. And for the hardcore fanboys out there, just to avoid confusion, the game also avoids the Secret Invasion storyline.

Regarding Civil War, long story short (and you can follow this link if you want the whole enchilada from Wikipedia), as shown in the game, some irresponsible superheroes in a live reality TV show, inadvertently destroy Stamford, Connecticut. Legislation quickly flies through Congress to have all superheroes registered with the government, as weapons if you will, that must be trained and monitored. The superhero community quickly divides along the lines of pro-registration and anti-registration, with Iron Man leading the former, and Captain America the former.

These lines are mirrored in the game, as once you pass a certain point in the story, you must choose whether you are for or against registration. And from that point on, you may only use the heroes who are on the side you've chosen. It's an intriguing obstacle, and also lends to having two possible storylines and endings to the game. I haven't gotten that far yet, but I like it.

As Jeff promised, there are lots of characters to choose from. The ones I had the most fun with, or in other words, the ones that I figured out how to control and do what I wanted, were The Thing, Ms. Marvel, Luke Cage, and Spider-Man. I did try out a few others too. Iron Fist was kinda cool, and Deadpool was lots of fun. It took some time to figure out Mister Fantastic and Deadpool as they seemed to be a bit complicated to control - maybe that was just me. Iron Man and the Human Torch looked pretty cool too, but Jeff kept playing them, ahem.

The dialogue that goes on in the game as the characters are fighting opponents is a lot of fun, especially as one would expect, Deadpool. And the interaction in the inbetween scenes is good too. It's very funny and surreal watching Reed Richards trying to talk sense to Deadpool - my absolute favorite part of the game.

I like Ultimate Alliance 2 a lot, and it verifies my thoughts that all gamer novices need a gaming mentor when they start to play. It really makes me wonder why so many PS3 games are only one player - they should all be two or more players. I really think there is merit to the mentor idea though, once I played for a few hours with Jeff, I was able to get farther later on by myself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Value of Good Customer Service

When I heard about the free play offer on DC Universe Online for October, I decided it was time to buy the game I wanted the most, but never bought because of that pesky monthly subscription fee thing. So I went to the usual two places I have gotten my PS3 games from, Play N Trade, and then Walmart, and both let me down.

I was about to turn to the wonderful online worlds of Amazon and eBay when I remembered that there was a Game Stop right in town, mere moments from my home. I have been hesitant to shop at Game Stop as a company for one reason. My sister is a librarian, and some years back, there was someone filching videotapes and DVDs from the library, and selling them en masse to the local Game Stop. Considering that all of the items were marked with 'property of said library,' there's no way the GS folks couldn’t have known what was up. It had to be a partner job. I had a hard time trusting Game Stop after that.

Proximity, and a crazed need for the DC Universe Online game prevailed and I called the Marlton Game Stop, not the one in the incident described above, it should be noted. Yes, they had a copy of the game, and sure, they'd hold it for me. Woohoo. I went right over.

When I went in, they knew exactly who I was and what I wanted. They tried to sell me on other games, but in a friendly, conversational manner - not like it was their job to do so, but because they wanted to. They hipped me to a game The Bride would definitely be interested in, a pseudo-sequel to the Portal games called Quantum Conundrum. And we also talked for a bit about comics and tabletop role-playing games.

Suffice it to say, the next time I'm looking to buy new games, they will be my first stop. That's the value of good customer service. And for more info about playing DC Universe Online for free, check out this link.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Infamously Better

One of the reasons I have never been much of a gamer, and the PS3 with its aversion to multiple player games is a big culprit, because I dislike the 'turn wait.' That is to say, I don't like waiting for my turn at a game when the other player is infinitely better at it than me. This reared its ugly head back in the Nintendo days when The Bride and I used to play Super Mario Bros., and her turn would last for hours. It was also the reason I preferred Dr. Mario as we could both play that at the same time.

The night I talked about a while ago when Jeff and Crystal came over and played the demos, they just didn't whup my butt at Zombie Apocalypse and Nucleus, they also tried their hands at Watchmen and my favorite, Infamous. I was not disappointed by the long long looong turn wait.

In Watchmen, I had gotten past the wonderful Dave Gibbons motion comic animated art from the original Watchmen comics that form the introduction, but had barely moved anywhere in the prison break. I did find it annoying that whoever you picked to play - Rorschach or Nite Owl II - the other would just stand there doing nothing. Not realistic. Jeff and Crystal ripped through the prison break like they were the real characters.

Then they moved on to the Infamous demo. I had never gotten past zapping folks and cars with electrical powers, and riding to the first station atop the train. For those who don't know, that's really not far. Fun, but not far. That keen mutant skill, of both Jeff, and Crystal, derived from years of gaming experience, kicked in and soon they were sailing far ahead in the game and fighting bad guys that I had never even glimpsed in my hours (yes, hours) of playing this game.

The Bride who had watched me play the same two or three scenes from Infamous multiple times, was treated to almost an entirely new movie never seen before. The turn wait was starting to get to her as well, so then they moved on to Little BIG Planet 2. Three people can play that at once.

This turn wait was much longer. I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I swore I was gonna practice. Years of experience can't be that hard...

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gamer Lingo

Okay, I've been doing this for a while now, and I'm actually starting to get my groove down with all this gaming stuff. I have even learned some of the lingo of the genre. I have even created a term or two of my own. These aren't anything new, but they were new to me. Here are a few examples.

PVP - this one is easy, even though I wouldn't have known what it was a few months ago. It means 'player vs. player,' like in a fight game like Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. You get to play against your friend without that annoying turn wait thing.

Newb - this is sooo me, someone who doesn't know anything about videogames, or a particular videogame.

Leet - pretty much, this is the opposite of a newb. This is someone who is very good at a videogame or videogames.

Pwn - this is what leets typically do to newbs. If you get your ass handed to you in a videogame, you have been 'pwned.' It comes from the common typo of hitting the P instead of the O because they are so close on the keyboard.

Kill Move - the stupid or clever victory dance of sorts a character does when they have beaten their opponent. It can range anywhere from jumping up and down to teabagging the opponent. Whatever makes one happy, I suppose.

RTFM - this is one that has been directed at me from several people, and even friends, since starting this blog. It's an acronym that stands for "Read The F*cking Manual." Yeah, it's a semi-nice way of telling me that I'm an idiot. I maintain the manuals are too long, too confusing, and assume you have years of experience playing these games.

Turn Wait - this is when you are stupid enough to let someone much better than you play a game first, before your turn. There's also Turn Wait Bastard, which would be the person who's better than you. They also don't have to go first. You could have your turn, then they go, then you go to bed.

The Glenn Method - this is a controller technique, named after me, that means frantically hitting all the buttons, triggers and joysticks on the controllers until something happens - hopefully something good. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn't. I'm sticking with it.

Got any other words you'd like to teach the Non-Gamer? Let me know. I am always ready to learn, unless it means I have to read one of those instruction manuals…

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Zombie Apocalypse and Why I Hate Jeff

One of the games hat I downloaded a demo of from the PlayStation Store was called Zombie Apocalypse. It seemed a natural based on my desire to "just shoot stuff." I mean, come on, what's better that shooting zombies? Shooting zombies is the basis for so many fun things - the Night of the Living Dead movies, the House of the Dead games, and even government disaster contingency plans. When I saw this one available as a demo, I went to downloadin'.

The characters provided as your controller-controlled protagonist are intriguing and would do better in a role-playing game than as videogame fodder, but still it adds some charm and flair to the game. Essentially, like most zombie scenarios, you're left alive and zombies are attacking - you fight back. Every time I tried this one, the zombies descended on me quickly and I died almost immediately. Even if I had a gun, or a chainsaw, it didn't matter - I became one of the walking dead rather quickly.

I had moved on to other games in the meantime. Jeff and Crystal came over one night and we gravitated to the game console and were looking for something to play. I wanted to show them the demos I had downloaded. First Crystal one-upped me in Nucleus, showing me new games and new levels I was unaware of. See what I mean about needing a PS3 mentor when you're a beginner?

Next, I showed them Zombie Apocalypse, mostly because the title jumped out at them as much as it did me initially. Crystal first reaction to the player characters was pretty much the same as mine, she thought they would be great for the Call of Cthulhu tabletop rpg. She lasted a bit longer than my sixteen second record. She even managed to tear up some of the zombies with her chainsaw.

Then Jeff took the controller. He immediately began to mow through the zombies. After a bout a minute or two, Crystal and I began to object. Jeff shrugged it off as years of experience and having watched the two of us play first. As he continued to trash the dead and even perform new abilities like save innocents and offer bait to the zombies, I got angrier. I had been watching people play videogames on this thing for months and I'm still not any better at it.

I'm convinced Jeff is a mutant, and his mutant power is an unnatural ability to play videogames. I'm going to report him to the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, or better yet, tell the Sentinels where to find him… after he tells me all his gaming secrets...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hulk Smash, Sorta

Infuriated by not being able to figure out Portal, let alone any of the games on The Orange Box, I wanted something simple. I wanted to shoot something, or smash something. Smash something... hmmm... the lightbulb over my head went off as I knew I had Sega's The Incredible Hulk in that stack of videogames Ray had lent me. That's simple, that's all about smashing. Yeah, baby, Hulk smash!

From viewing the intro, the game is very much based on the 2008 film of the same name. There's Tim Roth as the Abomination, and other lookalike actors in their roles. It's all in place, but at its roots, it is still a Hulk smash game. Or at least it should be.

I got to playing and started smashing and smashing and smashing. But it seemed to be the same old army guys I was smashing and ditto with the walls and vehicles and other various smashables. I soon found that I, as the Hulk, was essentially trapped inside one building. There was some smarts involved in getting out. After a while of trying to jump out, jumping being the Hulk's default flying power, I started getting frustrated.

I mean, this is the Hulk we're talking about, right? Come on, Sega, the Hulk, like Winnie the Pooh, is a monster of very little brain. He should not be forced to puzzle his way out of situations, especially in videogames. His battle cry is "Hulk Smash!" not "Hulk put on thinking cap and figure this thing out."

I was kinda disappointed in Sega's The Incredible Hulk. I may go back to it, but not for a while. In the meantime I will quench my thirst for destruction with Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and turn the PS3 off for now.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Universal Language

The Bride and I went to Finland a few years back to see the Eurovision Song Contest finals in Helsinki. For the night of the finals, The Bride got a ticket but I did not. So I ended up at a party in the city. These were friends of friends, and only a few folks there spoke English. As it happened however, many of the people at the people were similarly 'orphaned' with partners at the actual show. What was odd, was that there were many people there who did not just speak English, but did not even speak the same language. There was Finnish, Japanese, English, etc., it was a house party of Babel.

When I arrived at the party there were still a few hours left before Eurovision came on TV. So there was a roomful of folks, eating and drinking, and sitting in front of a big screen television - but no one was talking. Well, we tried to talk, we just weren't doing very well at actually communicating.

Then someone turned on the game thingy and we all began taking turns playing a game. It was a simple game, understandable to all of us, and we bonded quite quickly while playing and taking turns. The game was about microscopic creatures eating smaller microscopic creatures while trying not to be eaten by even bigger ones. As the main little guy got bigger and evolved, so did the prey and the predators. It was fun, and by the time Eurovision started, we were all pretty much Babel friends. I never knew what the game was called, but I liked it quite a bit.

So when I finally figured out how to download demos from the PlayStation Store, there was a game that looked similar, so I got it. Lo and behold, I was right, that game from Helsinki was called Nucleus.

I was able to play it for a while. There doesn't seem to be much more to it than I had seen before. Mostly racing the clock, dodging cells and grabbing sunshiny things. This is a good demo download, very much a game I would consider buying to try and play. Also, it might be a step toward world peace. I wonder if President Obama has a PS3?

Friday, August 12, 2011

Grand Theft Auto in Miniature

As I mentioned before, in the infamous pile o' games that my friend Ray lent me was one of the Grand Theft Auto games, I think it's GTA IV. I sucked at it when I tried it the first time. I even let the game sit for a bit until it became daytime in the game world so I could see better. I'm still not any better at the PS3 game but, I discovered something I like a lot more searching the App Store on iTunes - Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Lite.

Now this is the free version of Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars and is designed for the iPhone. Much like The Bride with Portal, I became, and remain, obsessed. I eventually moved up to the full version for $9.99, which I have to say, is totally worth it. I love playing this almost mindless game. All that said, I still have no idea what the hell I'm doing.

After the frustration of trying to work that ever-annoying PS3 controller in the GTA IV game, I was relieved to have so much more control in the touch screen format of the iPhone. As a matter of fact, I got so skilled on the Lite version that's why I moved up. It was worth the money when I was able to actually do things.

Another reason I like this game is that it sort of has a story. Heck, it might have more of a story if I were to get farther in the game, but at the moment, I am happy where I am - causing chaos, stealing police cars and eating hot dogs. It has an obviously Chinese theme to it whereas GTA IV involved the Russian mob, not that the ethnicity of the characters or the world really matter.

You can just drive around smashing cars, running over people, and my favorite - blowing up hot dog carts, or you can go on missions like retrieving ancient family swords, shooting rival gang members, picking up taxi fares, or even delivering Chinese food. I love it. Hours of mindless and/or purposeful fun, this is the best videogame I've played so far for the PS3, um, I mean the iPhone...

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Enter the Portal

I told you earlier about The Bride's obsession with Portal and Portal 2. Well, I keep hearing, and not just from her, how fun the game was, so, with the thought in mind that I could always mute the sound and not have to deal with GLaDOS or her cake rantings, I thought I would give it a shot. God help me. I popped the Orange Box disc in. (Yes, I have finally learned how to turn the darn PS3 on by now.)

Unlike the The Bride, I wanted to try all the games on the disc, before trying Portal. I tried Team Fortress 2, and quickly learned that this was a multiplayer game. Hmmm… as much I do want to try that someday, I pass that one up for later, and move on. Keep it simple, stupid should be my mantra, after all, I can barely work the controller on this thing yet.

Then there's Half-Life 2, divided up between regular Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 Episode One and Episode Two. I really don't get it. I was under the impression that Half-Life was some sort of zombie shooting game. In the first version on this disc I was greeted by a creepy Christopher Lee wannabe with multi-colored eyes talking gibberish at me and then dropping me off at a train station. Wow. How about some background, some instructions or something, huh? Anything?

At this point, I just think the videogame companies are just mocking me. I'm old, I wouldn't understand. I retreat to the instruction manual. It says I am Freeman, and I'm here to shoot the alien Combine who have taken over the Earth. Okay, I'm down with that, but what's with the subway station and the vague overhead marching orders. Give me something to shoot, goddamnit! Give me a gun to shoot with, and I'm not talking about the aliens, but that guy who keeps 'welcoming me to City 17.'

Next. In Episode One, I'm the same guy, only this time I have a gun, but I can't make it work. When I try it makes a whimpering sound. I'm really getting frustrated here. The intro to Episode Two is at least exciting, lots of shooting alien creatures. And then it starts… and I'm trapped in a crashed train car with no gun. Remember the old Atari days when the game started when you turned it on. To hell with this crap, I move on to Portal.

Immediately the voice of GLaDOS makes me regret trying this. At least I have a gun, but I can't kill anything with it. But it does make a noise and show a blast when it's not making portals. But it's a puzzle game, and much like the cryptic crosswords that give The Bride so much joy, it gives me a headache. Five games, and all of them a total wash for me. I'm glad The Bride enjoyed this. I don't however.

Yes, I entered the Portal, and then I jumped right back out again...